Chicago has the Willis Tower and Navy Pier. Seattle has the Pike Place Market and Space Needle. And NYC has too many of ‘em to count. Every major metropolitan area across America and around the world has a host memorable landmarks that are well known to its citizens and visitors, be they iconic structures, locations, statues, or monuments of some form.
This, of course, includes Phoenix and its surrounding communities. The Valley of the Sun is dotted with a number of monumental locations to our history, culture, architecture, and art, such as the following 11 famed landmarks:
11) Hyatt Regency Phoenix
A mainstay of the downtown Phoenix skyline for almost 40 years, the Hyatt Regency stands out from all the towering structures nearby. And what makes the 24-floor hotel, which opened in 1976, so unique is the hat-shaped Compass Arizona Grill rotating restaurant perched on top. The hotel has the honor of getting, um, destroyed by Hollywood special-effects artists, as it was prominently obliterated
(along with the rest of downtown) by a comet that struck Phoenix in the 1978 made-for-television doomsday flick, A Fire in the Sky
10) South Mountain Towers, Phoenix
After darkness falls across the Valley, the glowing red lights of the numerous broadcast towers arranged atop Mount Suppoa, the highest peak in Phoenix’s South Mountains, stand out in like crimson beacons. Situated at 2,690 feet above sea level, the lights are visible from as far away as Apache Junction or Avondale and are a reminder that even in the age of high-speed streaming content, there are some folks out there who get their information and entertainment the old-fashioned way.
9) Her Secret is Patience, Phoenix
Since debuting in 2009, its been described in any number of ways, including as a psychedelic spaceship, a rainbow-colored toilet bowl, or even by some pervy types as a woman's private parts. However, the proper way to refer to artist Janet Echelman's stunning and memorable vortex-like sculpture, which hangs approximately 150 feet over Downtown Civic Space Park, is by its formal title: Her Secret is Patience
8 Fountain Hills Fountain
The pride and joy of Fountain Hills, which gives the quirky town its name, is like the Valley's version of Old Faithful. Every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., it unleashes a column of water anywhere from 350-500 feet in the air for 15 minutes. And until a decade ago, it was the largest fountain on Earth ( bigger fonts in Saint Louis and Dubai nullified this claim). Regardless, its still a sight worth seeking out. Just don’t get too close to the mist generated by the fountain, it's from treated waste-water.
7) Barry Goldwater Memorial, Paradise Valley
This bronze statue of the late Barry Goldwater has stood vigil at the intersection of Tatum Boulevard and Lincoln Drive since its unveiling in 2004. Created by famed Western artist Joe Beeler, the 9-foot Goldwater in full cowboy mode is a looming representation of the most towering figure in the history of Arizona politics. Glowering the direction of the nearby intersection, it might even be silently passing judgment on all the lead-foot drivers who get popped by one of Paradise Valley’s notorious speed cameras.
6) Gammage Auditorium
The influence and legacy of the late Frank Lloyd Wright can be seen across metro Phoenix. The esteemed architect designed, or had a hand in designing, numerous buildings and a couple of public-art pieces during the two decades he spent here. There’s his former studio and winter home, Taliesin West
, in Scottsdale, of course, as well as the David and Gladys Wright house
in Arcadia, the First Christian Church
on Seventh Avenue, the Arizona Biltmore
, the Scottsdale Spire
, and Tempe's Gammage Auditorium.
Gammage, on Arizona State University main campus, was Wright’s final creation. Opening five years after his death in 1964,. the symphony of curves, arches, and columns is one of the Wright's finest works.
5) Phoenix Financial Center
Fans of mid-century modern culture adore the Phoenix Financial Center, which was built in 1968 and consists of a 10-story skyscraper and two adjacent rotunda buildings, as a dramatic example of both the International style of architecture and Googie design. It’s also famed for the pattern of the high-rise’s southeastern façade, which (depending on whom you ask) resembles an old-school computer punch card or an enormous cheese grater. Either way, the Financial Center isy one of Phoenix’s unique landmarks.
4) Hayden Mill, Tempe
A downside of rampant development along Tempe Town and in downtown Tempe is that the view of Hayden Mill has become obscured. Built in 1918, the former grain mill has served as a gateway to Tempe. And it hopefully will be around for years to come, since plans are in the works to restore and transform the place into a hotel.
3) Westward Ho
The prominent example of Renaissance Revival architecture has been a part of downtown Phoenix's landscape since its debut in 1928, back when it was the tallest building in Arizona. Functioning as a hotel for almost a half-century and adorned with its signature broadcast antenna, the Westward Ho played host many movie stars in its heyday, even starring in a few films itself (including 1972’s Pocket Money
and both the original and remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho
). Since 1977, it has served as public housing for the elderly. As New Times reported a few years ago
, the Ho retains many vintage fixtures.
2) Tovrea Castle
Almost everyone traveling along he 202 in east Phoenix has seen this beautiful, wedding cake-shaped structure. As the story goes, Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro was inspired by the castles of his native Europe when he designed and built the structure in the early 1930s. Local meat-packing magnate Edward Ambrose Tovrea purchased the property a few years later with his wife, Della, and it became their private estate until his passing a year later. If you’re dying to take a peek at its interior (which is as stunning as its exterior) castle tours are offered every weekend.
1) Camelback Mountain
Easily Phoenix's most magnificent landmark, people have marveled at Camelback Mountain's majestic, dromedary-shaped array of red sandstone and Precambrian granite for centuries. For climbers, ascending the mountain's Praying Monk formation is a right of passage. For hikers, navigating its two major trails is essential to the Arizona experience. And trust us, the view of the surrounding Valley from the top is worth even the more rigorous trail hike (don't get caught without enough water
and watch out for the killer bees
). Ghost stories and legends abound about the urban eminence, and there's even a kitschy castle
on its southwestern ridge.